Saturday, January 2, 2016

Why Topeka?

Since September, everything I've written has been published in Topeka, Kansas after 13 years in Lawrence. I figured that it's about time to discuss the move and why it happened. The short answer is that my wife and I found a house that we liked and bought it. The long answer is that this was a move several years in the making. I lived in Lawrence from 1983 until 1996 and again from 2002 to 2015--26 years--and one thing that really aggravated me especially during my latter 13 years, is that Lawrence is expensive. This isn't unique to Lawrence but to most college towns that I know of. They are typically more expensive and we, as people, have come to just accept it. As much as I loved Lawrence, it always baffled me why a city in Kansas was so expensive. It got even more expensive when the state raised the sales tax making the sales tax in Lawrence nearly 10%. So we went looking for houses in Topeka. In one day we saw about 10 houses and found one we really liked. Instead of thinking of leaving Lawrence as the end of a chapter, I thought of moving to Topeka as the start of a new chapter.

For years, I had been trying to get on as some sort of go-to-person on the history of Lawrence and Douglas County. I've spent roughly 10 years studying and writing about the history and essentially got nowhere. No matter what I wrote, what I knew, what I tweeted, no one seemed to care or take notice. I tried to join programs or public get-togethers based on history to try to get my foot in the door. All attempts failed and since 2014, I've kind of slipped away from writing about history after I finished my research on the Douglas County Poor Farm opting to limit my research to short tweets or Instagram posts. With the move, I plan on turning my focus to Topeka and Shawnee County where they are many aspects of their history that has been nearly forgotten.

We also moved to be closer to my wife's job. She's a teacher in the Topeka school district and she had been wanting to be closer to work for a few years. The downside was that I had to quit my job as a paraeducator in Baldwin City but I got a job with Topeka as a para so it all worked out well for both of us.

I also think that Topeka is aiming for a resurgence in popularity. They are in the process of revitalizing their downtown, they are a more diverse community, smaller colleges, such as Topeka's Washburn University, are becoming more popular as larger schools get more expensive, it is within driving distance of Kansas City, Lawrence, Manhattan and Wichita, and the lower cost of living is more desirable for people in this not-quite-stable economy.

But the biggest reason that moving was so easy was that Lawrence was my hometown but it didn't feel like. I fell into that weird category of "not a college student" and "from here" and for some reason, that didn't mix well in a city where you are either there because of college or a transplant from somewhere else. Despite being born and raised in Lawrence, its people considered me a visitor.

So, as we enter a new year, fresh off a year that saw a lot of good, a lot of bad and some big changes, I am changing my focus to my writing. I have a couple books planned over the next couple of years, another book that I have been writing since 2004 that I need to finish, and several Story Series and short stories that I have planned and outlined. Here's hoping that I can get a lot of them done along with all my stuff that requires research.

Until next time, I remain...
~Brian

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